|Poster for original short film (feature adaptation coming in September)|
The line for Focus Features' spotlight on the upcoming animated movie "9" stretched from the Esplanade Ballroom, out the door and around WonderCon's Moscone Center in San Francisco last Saturday. And while it took thirty minutes to get the crowd seated, it was clear the audience was very excited to see the film's voice-over star Elijah Wood ("Lord of the Rings,” "Sin City").
The film focuses on 9, a small, mechanized ragdoll who, along with his siblings -- numbers 1 though 8 -- tries to save what's left of the world from clockwork beasts that look as if were bred in a scrapyard.
After showing the film's trailer, Director of Animation Joe Ksander and Elijah Wood took the stage to deafening cheers.
Ksander touched on the film's beginnings as director Shane Acker's student film thesis. The original short film ended up winning a Student Academy Award and caught the attention of director/producer Tim Burton, who wanted turn it into a feature. The original short had no voices, and once Ksander was attached, they began sending the script to actors.
"The script was brought to my attention as well as the short film," said Wood. "With [Acker's] vision, what else do you need?"
"Because Shane had a final, finished project—this is what it looks like this is what it feels like—it really helped us along," said Ksander.
The floor opened up for questions. The first was from a fan dressed as Chef from Comedy Central's "South Park," who asked Wood if he ever plans to direct a film.
"I'd love to eventually, yeah," said Wood. "I've been working in film for twenty years! In a way, I feel like I've been in film school for twenty years. I'm actually producing a little horror film in New Zealand in a couple of months called 'The Home.'"
Another fan asked if "9" would have a sad ending. "It's definitely dark and bleak," said Wood.
"But hopeful," said Ksander.
A young boy then asked, "What was it like to play number 9, a ragdoll on a mission to save the world?"
"Great question," said Wood. "It was great... though he did have some experience similar to some characters in the past, but I can't put my finger on it... Maybe it's a quest?"
A break was taken from questions to show an exclusive clip from the movie. In it, 9 and a few of his siblings ran around the clock tower of a massive ruined cathedral in an attempt to escape a four-legged, crow-like clockwork beast.
Another member of the crowd asked how the producers managed to assemble a cast that, in his own words, is "pretty badass." "I'm a fan of animation, and this is really unique," said Wood. "I've ever seen anything like it. The animation world in America tends to be dominated by family, animal-animated films. And it's really nice to see something that represents something darker."
An audience member asked Wood how voice acting is different than live-action acting. "A lot of these scenes are very action oriented, but you can't use your body. You have to stand in front of a mic and sort of imbue your voice with a sense of motion,” he explained. “It can be very difficult."
The final question came from a fan wanted to know if Wood is involved with Guillermo del Toro's upcoming adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Hobbit." " I'm pretty in the dark about it like everyone else," said Wood. "There's talk of movie to bridge the gap between ‘The Hobbit’ and ‘The Lord of the Rings’ — though they don't want to call it a bridge movie. I'm really excited about it I'm a really big fan of Guillermo's."